Joseph had every reason to be bitter. His brothers sold him into slavery. While serving in Potiphar’s house, false accusations got him jailed. Even after Joseph interpreted his dream, the butler failed to get him sprung from prison. He had had dreams that foretold that he would be great. Yet he was a slave or prisoner for 13 years. Thirteen years! Yet he trusted God. No hint of bitterness. When later, his treacherous brothers turned to him for grain, Joseph taught them. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20 NIV).
That is what I call radical faith. Joseph was disappointed time and again, yet he continued to believe that God would do His marvelous work in His own time and His own way.
What does radical faith look like today? Maybe someone else gets the job you badly wanted. You might be tempted to feel angry and cheated. But radical faith says that there is something better that God has in store for you.
Radical faith may look like a young couple filled with family hopes who have miscarriage after miscarriage. At first, they are hurt and angry. But faith leads the way. They learn to say, “God be praised! We trust the Lord in all things.”
A man confronted with a cancer diagnosis thanks God. “If I live, I am in His hands. If I die, I am in His hands. I am okay either way.” That is radical faith.
Radical faith is even harder when we suffer because of our mistakes. When we feel that we have failed spiritually, we feel unworthy of His help. When we sin, we are tempted to despair. Yet radical faith invites: “Jesus loves sinners. He wants you! Radical faith carries us to Him where we throw ourselves on His merits, mercy, and grace.”
Radical faith creates a special kind of peace—an assurance that God presides. He can take any mess and transform it into humility, growth, and gratitude. He is the great alchemist!
Sometimes radical faith is nothing more than honoring our fragments of belief. When doubts are gnawing and confusion is circling, faith chooses to go toward the light—knowing that going toward darkness never gets us closer to God. “What do I know? What has edified and lifted me? When have I felt inspired and taught?”
The faithful are not just those at the front lines of the battle but also all of those foot soldiers who continue in the direction of glory.
One great example of this is the man in the New Testament whose son was possessed. He sought out Jesus. He first found Jesus’ disciples—who failed him. When Jesus arrived, he begged Jesus for healing for his son. Jesus taught him that all things are possible to one who believes. “And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24). His belief was partial and imperfect. BUT he acted on it. He persisted in seeking Jesus through his disappointment. He acted on his fragment of belief and received all the blessings of one who believed perfectly.
One of the most influential scriptures in my life is found in section 50 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness.
That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day. (D&C 50:23-24)
Doubts and confusion—anything that does NOT edify—are NOT good guides to the truth. In contrast, any hint of enlightenment—if followed—will bring us closer to God. If we continue to focus on the light—cherishing it and pursuing it—we will be led to the presence of God!
Church history is filled with examples of people who were invigorated by the light but then chose to dwell on patches of darkness. The three witnesses all got sidetracked by irritations. They could not deny the truth they had experienced but they squandered precious opportunities because they worried too much about fragments of disappointment.
I find the story of Lyman E. Johnson to be instructive. He was one of the restored Church’s original apostles. When the Kirtland Safety Society failed, he turned against the brethren and became finally disaffected during the Missouri troubles. Brigham Young reports that Lyman once told him:
Brethren–I will call you brethren–I will tell you the truth. If I could believe `Mormonism’–it is no matter whether it is true or not–but if I could believe `Mormonism’ as I did when I traveled with you and preached, if I possessed the world I would give it. I would give anything, I would suffer my right hand to be cut off, if I could believe it again. Then I was full of joy and gladness. My dreams were pleasant. When I awoke in the morning my spirit was cheerful. I was happy by day and by night, full of peace and joy and thanksgiving. But now it is darkness, pain, sorrow, misery in the extreme. I have never since seen a happy moment. (Journal of Discourses, Vol.19, p.41, Brigham Young, June 17, 1877)
There is a clear lesson. We can dwell on our discontents, our disappointments, our doubts—whether small or enormous—and they will lead to misery. Or we can dwell on every hint of truth and goodness and the “light [will grow] brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” We can trust that if we hold onto faith, God will accomplish His marvelous work in our lives in His own time and His own way.
Maybe radical faith is the soul commitment to privilege the good in our minds and hearts. It is the resolve to go toward the light even as voices call to us from the darkness. We all have significant doubts, irritations, or concerns. But, when we choose to act based on the light and truth we have been granted, we are living radical faith. That choice will lead us to greater truth and joy. That is radical faith.
Every one of us has patches of light and darkness in our souls. Every one of us has reasons to lean away from God or to lean towards Him. Radical faith is the choice to dwell on the light and, by so doing, moving closer to God. Every day we make the choice to seek more darkness or cherish more light.
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Thanks to Barbara Keil for her contributions to this article.